The Amazon Rainforest: What You Need to Know

Website design By BotEap.comEveryone knows that the Amazon rainforest is threatened by climate change. But what is it? How important is it? Well, that’s what I’m here in Brazil to study. I’m in the Atlantic Rainforest with my classmates from Columbia University. We are being hosted by the Ecological Research Institute (IPE), studying forest ecology and field research methods. Our goal is to determine the best and most sustainable ways to address some of the most important problems facing not only Brazil, but the entire planet.

Website design By BotEap.comWalking through the woods here, one cannot help but feel awe that one is breathing the air where the greatest concentration of LIFE exists. It’s so heartbreaking to think that these beautiful creatures are losing their homes just for a few minutes of our pleasure! They are too impressive and precious, the loss is too great.

Website design By BotEap.comSpoiler alert: the effects of Amazon deforestation will reach EVERYONE, and in our lifetime too. But read carefully because you can make a difference.

Website design By BotEap.comIf you!

Website design By BotEap.comQuick facts about the Amazon Rainforest:

  • At 1.4 billion acres, the Amazon is the largest tract of rainforest in the world. It accounts for more than half of all natural rainforest on Earth.
  • It is around 55 million years old.
  • The Amazon rainforest consists of four layers. Each has a unique ecosystem to which plants and animals have adapted:
  • The highest is the emerging layer. Its trees reach 200 feet in height.
  • The second layer is the canopy. The smooth leaves with pointed tips facilitate the flow of water and prevent the growth of moss and fungus.
  • The layer below that can only get 5% of the sunlight. The plants here are specially adapted to survive.
  • The lowest layer is the forest floor. Only 2% of sunlight reaches here.
Website design By BotEap.com Characteristic fauna:

  • 1/5 of the world’s fresh water is found in the Amazon basin alone. This makes it a biodiversity hotspot.
  • 1/10 known species on Earth are found in the Amazon. Plus there are still millions undescribed
  • The Amazon rainforest is the richest and most varied biological reservoir in the world. It contains several million species of insects, plants, birds and other life forms:
  • 40,000 plant species
  • 5,600 species of fish
  • 1,300 species of birds
  • 430+ species of mammals
  • More than 1000 species of amphibians
  • More than 400 species of reptiles
  • There are an estimated 2.5 million species of insects.
Website design By BotEap.com The Amazon is home to jaguars, harpy eagles, pink river dolphins, manatees, tapirs, red deer, capybaras, sloths, various types of monkeys, and other rodent species. Yet around 137 species of plants, animals and insects are lost every day due to rainforest destruction, or 50,000 per year.

Website design By BotEap.comI usually:

  • About 45% is dark, 30% is clay, and 25% is water
  • The top soil is about 2.5 to 5 cm deep.
  • Over 100 million years of exposure to the elements acidified the soil and leached it of its nutrients.
  • Plants can thrive despite poor soil quality because they recycle nutrients from dead flora and fauna (instead of getting them from the soil)
  • Terra preta is a dark, fertile anthropogenic (artificial) soil found in the Amazon Basin. Indigenous peoples created this “Amazonian dark land” or “Indian black land” between 450 B.C. C. and 950 a. They would mix the infertile Amazonian soil with bones, manure and charcoal. Charcoal, which gives soil its color, is very stable and remains in the soil for millennia, helping it retain minerals and nutrients. Terra preta areas are often surrounded by common soil. Deforested soils are productive for only 1-2 years. After this, the farmers will move to new areas and clear more land. However, terra preta is less prone to nutrient leaching caused by flooding due to its high concentration of charcoal, microbial life, and organic matter.
Website design By BotEap.com Dominant vegetation:

  • 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees live in the Amazon rainforest
  • The lush vegetation encompasses a variety of tree species. These include myrtle, laurel, palm, acacia, rosewood, Brazil nut, rubber tree, mahogany, and Amazon cedar.
  • Foods found in the Amazon rainforest include breadfruit, nuts, bananas, cocoa, guava, mango, berries, cola nuts, and bananas.
Website design By BotEap.com Air-conditioned:

Website design By BotEap.comThe Amazon is in the “Tropical Forest Climate” or “Equatorial Climate”. It is hot and humid. The average temperature is approximately 79 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. The difference in temperature between night and day is greater than between the seasons.

Website design By BotEap.comThe immense extension and great continuity of this tropical forest is the result of the high rainfall, high humidity and high temperatures that prevail in the region.

Website design By BotEap.comDisturbance regimes (also known as what natural hazards are you facing?):

Website design By BotEap.comLike most tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests, the Amazon is particularly susceptible to plowing, overgrazing, and excessive burning due to vulnerable soil and climate conditions. Anthropogenic (man-made) fires threaten habitat loss as well as air and water quality. Taking into account the full range of natural disturbances, anthropogenic turnover creates a significant increase in biomass and a greater carbon imbalance. Warmer temperatures and less rainfall have produced droughts of historic proportions. Long dry periods increase the probability of forest fires. These incidents also have profound effects on other aspects of the ecosystem.

Website design By BotEap.comPrimary human use:

Website design By BotEap.comFor most of human history, deforestation in the Amazon occurred primarily by subsistence farmers growing crops for their families and local consumption. But in the 20th century, industrial activities and large-scale agriculture dramatically increased the rate of deforestation. Large-scale mining operations disrupt natural ecosystems and require huge amounts of woodAmazonian rainforest tree with red eyes

Website design By BotEap.comThe Amazon Basin contains deposits of nickel, copper, tin, manganese, iron ore, gold, and other valuable minerals. In addition to deforestation, secondary effects of mining include the dispersion of mercury (used to extract gold) into the local environment. Mercury poisons indigenous communities, as well as water supplies, plant and animal life.

Website design By BotEap.comOil extraction in the Amazon is causing deforestation. Furthermore, it leads to widespread soil and air pollution, indigenous conflicts, biodiversity loss, and the displacement of local populations.

Website design By BotEap.comanimal husbandry:

  • 1-2 acres of rainforest are cut down every second. This is mainly for industry.
  • 70% of deforestation in the Amazon is to make room for cattle ranches
  • Meat industry corporations are systematically clearing vast tracts of native forest land and replacing it with soybean crops to feed livestock. They use the land until it is completely degraded. At this point, they repeat the process elsewhere.
  • Cattle ranching is responsible for 91% of all Amazon deforestation
  • The construction of hydroelectric plants damages the ecosystem. Studies predict that this could submerge a significant portion of the rainforest under water.
  • Logging companies also extract valuable wood from the remaining forest.
  • 136 million acres have been cleared for animal agriculture.
  • 26 million acres of rainforest have been cleared for palm oil production. However, palm oil receives much more attention from the media and consumers. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to be passionate about causes you don’t have to change your lifestyle for. Nobody wants to hear that the real problem is the meat on their plates!
Website design By BotEap.comConservation issues:

Website design By BotEap.com30 million people live in the area. The increase in industrial activity has affected many indigenous tribes. They suffer displacement and exposure to diseases. For example, death rates are rising among many tribes that had little contact with the industrial world and did not develop certain immunities.

  • The loss of the Amazon rainforest accounts for between 5% and 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • 1,100 activists have been killed in Brazil in the last 20 years. 150 since 2012. 73-year-old American nun and activist Dorothy Stang was recently shot by a rancher. She had campaigned for 30 years to save the Amazon and its indigenous farmers from the interests of wealthy landowners. The verdict originally found the shooter ‘not guilty,’ but recently ordered her arrest and retrial. Fewer than 100 of these men have gone to trial. Around 80 convicted suspects were gunmen hired by powerful ranchers and loggers. The legal system found only about 15 of the killers guilty. None of them are currently serving sentences.
Website design By BotEap.comThanks for sticking with me!

Website design By BotEap.comAlso, thank you for being a conscientious, supportive and committed citizen. I hope this has piqued your interest. If you want to learn more about the connections between environmental issues and food, I highly recommend watching ‘Cowspiracy’ on Netflix. Also, you can check out this fact page, which provides an overview of how our diets affect the environment. I will also be posting more of my own work over the summer as I conduct research.

Website design By BotEap.comOn another note, I’m not sure what would be the most interesting format for all of you. If you have a minute, let me know in the comments below if you prefer scholarly research essays, bulleted fact sheets like the one above, or more personal posts. Ultimately, I feel very passionate about this topic. Subscribe to stay informed and share this post with your friends.

Website design By BotEap.comThis is happening at an alarming rate. Therefore, every person and every effort counts!

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